At a press event designed to set out the future of Ubisoft, its boss Yves Guillemot briefly touched upon its workplace crisis, which began in 2020.
Numerous reports of sexual misconduct sparked a round of departures from the company, but Ubisoft has remained under pressure ever since – and even this week – from staff who feel the publisher has not done enough.
On Thursday, in Paris, at a briefing attended by Eurogamer, Guillemot described the moment as a “stumble” which the company had since acknowledged and learned from.
“Our goal is to offer the best working environment for them to thrive and reach their full potential,” Guillemot said. “In a context of [a] great reshuffle, we want to build one unique employee value proposition and bring changes whenever needed.
“First, we want to ensure an inclusive, rewarding and respectful workplace for all. Yes, we stumbled. And we have acknowledged that. We learned a lot along the way, and have made meaningful progress with concrete action plans led by our leaders together with Anika Grant, our chief people officer, and Raashi Sika, our VP of diversity and inclusion.
“Despite the attrition that impacted our entire industry during the pandemic, we hired more than 4000 people over the last fiscal year, including more than 600 people that were rehired, as well as senior talents coming from other leading companies.”
During a wide-ranging discussion, Guillemot also touched on the recent Tencent acquisition of more of Guillemot Brothers, which in turn gave it more ownership of Ubisoft – though notably left it without commanding control of a seat on the company’s board.
“The goal is to do more business on mobile first,” Guillemot said. “We started four years ago, and the games are coming along and they are very high quality. We think it’s going to really help the company to grow, and so we are searching also in new fields where we can do more business. That’s why we wanted to actually grow our partnership… to grow the business and generate more revenue and make sure our brands are really everywhere in the world. We see that creating AAA games on mobile is quite, quite difficult to do. So we are doing some of them internally. But we are also working with partners like Tencent to create some as well.”
Responding to reports of a drop in share price after the Tencent deal was made public, Guillemot suggested it was due to the market seeing a lower likelihood of investment for a quick sale, and perhaps a lowered likelihood of collaboration with other partners – something Guillemot said was inaccurate.
“A big negotiation with Tencent [was] that we can have the right to do whatever we want… People feel that we are only with one partner, which is not the case, we are really open to anybody. But you know, in the short term our goal – and the medium term – is to try to show what we can achieve in our studios and grow the share price by building projects that will be the best in the industry.”
Ubisoft memorably fought off a prior hostile takeover attempt by Vivendi, but over the past year has been the subject of numerous reports suggesting some kind of sale was more likely. I asked Guillemot if Ubisoft’s independence was still as crucial now as it once was.
“Yes, it is,” Guillemot told me. “What we want is to be in a position to give a long-term perspective to all the employees of Ubisoft, so they can really create games they feel are going to be the best in the industry.” While that didn’t rule out partnerships with other companies, Guillemot, continued, Ubisoft’s future remains its own.
“Our first intention is to be able to own our destiny. That’s why we invest in new technologies. That’s why we we look at how we can use those techs to create new brands and so on. Our goal is really to grow in this industry, having all the tools that will make our brands and our teams the most recognised ones in this industry. And I think we can do that”.
As part of that effort, Guillemot announced that third-party games would be made available as part of its own Ubisoft+ subscription, which would arrive soon on PlayStation and Xbox. This detail perhaps sheds new light on the company’s decision last year to begin labelling its own games as “Ubisoft Originals”.
“With Ubisoft+, we are providing players with easy access to our catalogue through one subscription, our effort spans, PC, Stadia, Amazon, Luna and GeForce Now, and will soon be available on PlayStation and also Xbox,” Guillemot said. “Our back catalogue has more than 100 active games, [and] this makes us a key player in the democratisation of games, offering high quality, varied experiences, accessible and appealing to a large audience.
“Offering that content will help us to be on all the platforms everywhere in the long term, including all the platforms – the mobile platforms as well. We are proud to announce that also we are opening to third-party now. Ubisoft+ will have third-party and indie games on the platform.”
Finally, I asked Guillemot about the future of Quartz, its widely-disliked NFT program, and what Ubisoft’s thoughts were on continuing to work with the blockchain and similar technologies.
“We look at all new technologies and we are very much cloud, on the new generation of voxels, and we are also looking at all the Web3 capabilities,” Guillemot told me. “We tested a few things recently that are giving us more info on how it can be used and what we should do in the universe of video games. So we are testing ground with some games that… we will see, if they really answer a player’s need, [and then they] will happen on the market. But we are still in the research mode, I would say.”
Eurogamer met with Ubisoft at its Paris office this week, for which Ubisoft covered travel and accommodation.